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09-06-2008 - What is Animal Welfare?
Animal Welfare

What is animal welfare?

Animal welfare is the ethical responsibility of ensuring animal well-being. Animal well-being is the condition in which animals experience good health, are able to effectively cope with their environment, and are able to express a diversity of species-typical behaviors1. Protecting an animal's welfare means providing for its physical and mental needs.

Ensuring animal welfare is a human responsibility that includes consideration for all aspects of animal well-being, including proper housing, management, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane euthanasia.

There are numerous perspectives on animal welfare that are influenced by a person's values and experiences. There are also various means of measuring animal welfare, including (but not limited to) health, productivity, behavior, and physiological responses.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has defined its commitment to animal welfare through the adoption of the following Animal Welfare Principles that serves as guidance when the Association develops policies and takes action to ensure the welfare of animals:

AVMA Animal Welfare Principles

The AVMA, as a medical authority for the health and welfare of animals, offers the following eight integrated principles for developing and evaluating animal welfare policies, resolutions, and actions.

  • The responsible use of animals for human purposes, such as companionship, food, fiber, recreation, work, education, exhibition, and research conducted for the benefit of both humans and animals, is consistent with the Veterinarian's Oath.
  • Decisions regarding animal care, use, and welfare shall be made by balancing scientific knowledge and professional judgment with consideration of ethical and societal values.
  • Animals must be provided water, food, proper handling, health care, and an environment appropriate to their care and use, with thoughtful consideration for their species-typical biology and behavior.
  • Animals should be cared for in ways that minimize fear, pain, stress, and suffering.
  • Procedures related to animal housing, management, care, and use should be continuously evaluated, and when indicated, refined or replaced.
  • Conservation and management of animal populations should be humane, socially responsible, and scientifically prudent.
  • Animals shall be treated with respect and dignity throughout their lives and, when necessary, provided a humane death.
  • The veterinary profession shall continually strive to improve animal health and welfare through scientific research, education, collaboration, advocacy, and the development of legislation and regulations.

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